When do I need to talk to my GP?
It is normal to feel low or have feelings of anxiety from time to time particularly when experiencing a life change or big event.
If you have been feeling low or very anxious and this is affecting your day-to-day life, you should consider going to see your GP.
You may have been feeling like this for a while or you may have noticed (or other people may have noticed) a change in how you are behaving recently.
If you have noticed changes in the way you are feeling or behaving, consider if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Have you lost interest in activities which would normally give you pleasure?
- Have you started to avoid anything due to feeling anxious?
- Are you experiencing a particular issue that is causing you concern – this could be feelings of panic, an eating disorder, self-harm or seeing or hearing things that other people do not see or hear?
- Are you feeling moody or over-reacting more often than usual?
- Do you have poor appetite or been over-eating?
- Are you feeling tired and finding it hard to concentrate or sleep?
- Are you lacking energy and finding it hard to perform day-to-day tasks?
- Are you feeling guilty or distressed about how you are feeling and starting to withdraw from friends or relatives?
It is especially important to talk to your GP - or someone else who can help - if you are feeling hopeless or struggling to cope. If you need to see someone quickly, ask someone at your surgery about arranging an urgent appointment or book it online. Remember you can always talk to someone about how you are feeling at any time of the day or night.
If you are feeling low or anxious because of a problem which is affecting you such as debt, benefits, money or housing – you can find help to tackle these problems through the practical help section.
How to prepare for a GP appointment
It can be nerve-wracking speaking to someone that you may not know well about your mental health.
You may be worried about bothering your GP with your problem. Your GP is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical - around one third of all GP appointments are related to mental health.
You can take a family member or friend along with you to the appointment if it will make you feel more at ease.
Make sure you take time to prepare for your appointment. Write down any main points that you want to talk about as well as any questions you might have. This could include information about how you are feeling and how this is affecting your day-to-day life, as well as any physical symptoms.
The GP may talk through some possible options with you which might include:
- Self-referral to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies which supports people with a range of talking treatments.
- Blood tests or other investigations.
- Using a social prescribing service (you can refer yourself to this service).
- Referring you to a specialist mental health team.
- Prescribing a medication.
- Improving your general health and wellbeing such as exercise, Mindfulness or cutting back on alcohol or smoking.
- Peer support or a support group.
If your GP prescribes a medication, they should talk to you about how this should help and tell you about any possible side effects.
There is a local campaign called Me + My Medicines, led by patients and supported by clinical staff, which aims to help people raise concerns and use their medicines better. This means that if you, your family or your friends have any issues or concerns about your medicines, no matter what they are, you should speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse to enable you to find a solution that most suits you.
You can always ask your GP why a particular treatment has been suggested and if other things might help. If you need to – make some notes about what is discussed.
- The Doc Ready website can guide you through preparing for a GP appointment step-by-step.
- The mental health charity Mind has produced a helpful video and leaflet called 'Find the words' about talking to your GP about mental health. You can also read their guide to seeking help for a mental health problem.
- Another publication called 'How to talk to your GP about your mental health' produced by the Mental Health Foundation talks in more detail about going to see your GP.
- If you are not registered with a GP, NHS England has information about how to find and register with a GP surgery. There are leaflets about how to register with a GP if you're homeless, if you're a refugee or asylum seeker or if you belong to the gypsy, traveller or Roma community. There is also information about visitors from abroad seeking a GP.
The Accessible Information Standard
Since July 2016 all organisations that provide NHS care or adult social care including GP surgeries are legally required to follow a new set of rules called the Accessible Information Standard. The Standard sets out what they must do to improve communication and accessibility for people with a disability or sensory loss. This means that if you are Deaf, deaf or Deafblind you can:
- Receive the communication support you need (for example a BSL-English interpreter or speech-to-text reporter) during a consultation with your GP.
- Ask for information to be provided in an accessible format (this may mean test results sent by SMS or emails in plain English for example).
- Request the way in which the surgery contacts you (by email for example).
Find out more about the Accessible Information Standard on the SignHealth website.